In the last blog, we looked at the importance of effective communication, distinguishing it from self expression. Self expression can have little to do with the other person and may largely revolve around the creator’s process of transforming feelings and experiences into tangible form – whether an interpretive dance or a speech.
At this point, it is worthwhile to explore some of the common ways we relate to one another and address how they contribute to or sabotage our communication. The first one deserving of our attention is venting.
Sometimes people need to vent or get something “off their chest.” That is self expression which, again, ought to be distinguished from communication. Especially in divorce, venting can be a healthy necessity. But even venting should be done with a mindfulness towards the intention. The goals may be to be heard and validated, which are necessary and appropriate, so the following may be considered to help clarify and achieve an effective venting experience:
- What do I hope to achieve through venting? Do I simply need to speak without interruption for a few minutes or am I looking for a specific response?
- Am I aiming to get closure by putting words to something?
- Am I looking for something akin to a physical release, literally processing and disposing of something?
- Is this a safe environment to vent?
- Is this person likely to give me what I need to make the experience successful? (A non-judgmental reception, an apology, a nod of recognition) Has this person been able to do so in the past?
- Is this best done with a close friend, a therapist, or directly to the person I am venting about/who is involved in the situation about which I am venting?
- Do I want feedback? What sort of feedback would resonate? (It’s okay to ask for the type of feedback you want; for example: “I’d like your thoughts,” or “I really don’t need any feedback, just to know you heard me.” It can be a demonstration of care and respect to ask a friend, “Would you like feedback?” instead of immediately responding to someone’s recantation.)
If you choose to vent, vent responsibly. With clarity of purpose, you afford your listener the opportunity to give you what you need, which is most likely the ultimate goal of your communication.